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Reader question: Can I have a home birth in France?

The Local France
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Reader question: Can I have a home birth in France?
A mother in the delivery room at a French maternity ward. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

Giving birth at home is an option in France - but it’s rare, it’s not encouraged and it might not be easy to access. Here's how the system works.


Home births are rare in France. Between 1980 and 2016, less than 2 percent of all births took place outside hospitals, according to national statistics body Insee. Most of those were because of medical necessity, it was reported - mostly women who didn't have time to get to the hospital. 

However “women are free to choose where and with whom they wish to give birth,” the French home birth association Association professionnelle de l'accouchement accompagné à domicile (Apaad), points out on its website.

“(Home birth) is legal, reimbursed by Social Security and by certain mutuelle insurance companies,” Apaad said.


In total, 1,439 women in France opted for home births in 2022, according to the association. The majority of those labours progressed without problem, allowing 83 percent of those women to give birth as planned. 

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: How much time can parents in France take off for sick children?

Even so, health authorities in France do not encourage home births, because of the higher risk of complications compared to hospital births, where the full spectrum of medical support is available on tap.

To give birth at home, the mother must be in perfect health and have no notable risk factors. A mother's wishes will be considered when discussing the birth plan, but midwives will strongly recommend hospital care.

Doctors and medical associations also recommend expectant mothers who do opt to give birth ‘at home’ are no more than 30 to 45 minutes from a maternity ward, in case of complications.

And there’s another practical obstacle to home birth intentions. Apaad lists around 100 midwives in the whole country willing and able to support home births.

And the spread of available professional care is far from uniform – there are entire départements that are not included on the list. This is not to say that home births would be impossible in those départements, just that a major association does not list any professional care for home births.


In general, foreigners in France often report that the whole experience of having a baby is more medicalised in France than it is in the US or the UK - there's more of an emphasis on doctors and midwives deciding what is safe, rather than the mum-to-be getting involved in her birth plan.

That's not to say that the system is bad in France, just that it's likely to be different to what you have experiences before.

READ ALSO What to expect if you're having a baby in France


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